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Casino operators bemoan Massachusetts' 'arbitrary' gambling regulations

STEVE LeBLANC, Associated Press

Publication: theday.com

Published October 25. 2013 7:00PM   Updated October 25. 2013 8:06PM

Boston - Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas casino operator hoping to build a $1.2 billion gambling resort near the banks of the Mystic River in Everett, is criticizing the tough state regulations facing firms like his bidding for the right to build gambling facilities in Massachusetts.

He said any other business offering to create hundreds of jobs and spend billions of dollars would get a much warmer reception from state officials.

Wynn said that's not the case in Massachusetts - which is planning to award up to three casino licenses and one slots parlor license.

"If we were any other business they would stand on their head and spit wooden nickels to get billions of dollars invested." he said. "But if you are in the gaming business there is sort of a crummy presumption that you might be unsavory and that burns me up to tell you the truth."

Wynn also complained about not being able to have direct contact with members of the five-person state gambling commission because of expanded ethics guidelines.

"In my 47 years of business in the gaming industry this is probably one of the most challenging, complex situations - the Massachusetts situation - that I have ever faced," Wynn said Thursday in comments to investors on a conference call.

State officials have defended the regulations, saying they're meant to get the best deal for taxpayers and to avoid the impression of any conflict of interest.

Wynn's comments come days after a spokesman for Caesars Entertainment also faulted what he called the state's "arbitrary" regulations.

Caesars initially had agreed to partner with Suffolk Downs on a proposed $1 billion resort casino in the East Boston section of the city.

Suffolk Downs opted to end that partnership last week after gambling regulators briefed the racetrack on their investigation into the proposal and Caesars.

The report raised concerns including Caesars' now-ended relationship with a New York hotel company subsidiary, an executive's previous work in online gambling, and Caesars' now-settled dispute with a high-roller over millions in gambling debts.

The commission also cited Caesars' nearly $24 billion debt.

Caesars said they "strongly disagree with the staff recommendation and were prepared to thoroughly address each of the concerns raised by the report."

Caesars has also criticized the state gambling commission for setting what it described as unreasonable standards for prospective developers.

"The commission is attempting to set standards of suitability that are arbitrary, unreasonable and inconsistent with those that exist in every other gaming jurisdiction," Caesars spokesman Stephen Cohen said after the company agreed to end its relationship with Suffolk Downs.

Wynn, Suffolk Downs and a proposed Foxwoods project in Milford are all competing for the single casino license allowed in eastern Massachusetts under the 2011 gambling law.

Residents in East Boston and neighboring Revere are scheduled to vote at a local referendum on the Suffolk Downs proposal on Nov. 5.

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